As we think about our role as peacemakers in racial reconciliation, Ephesians 2:11-16 details God’s heart for unity within the body of Christ.
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands) — remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
Once we have an understanding of God’s heart, how can we as believers be a part of building racial unity within the body of Christ and in the larger community?
These suggestions are meant to help you think through how you can be a peacemaker in racial reconciliation.
1. Reach out and let your African American friends know you care.
For many in the majority culture, the recent killings of black men seem like an isolated instance, but for African Americans, it’s part of a historical narrative from slavery to “black codes” to Emmett Till that a black life can be taken for the most mundane activities. (See Equal Justice Initiative's from "Slavery to Mass Incarceration.")
Even a message that consists of something as simple as, “I saw what happened, and I just wanted to let you know my heart grieves because your heart grieves,” helps your African American friends know you care.
“Weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15b).
2. Don’t negate their feelings.
After the shootings in Dallas, Matt Chandler, lead pastor of the Village Church, hosted a discussion with three of the African Americans on his staff ("Justice and Racial Reconciliation"). At the end of the talk, he gave a great analogy about marriage that is applicable in this situation. If your wife is upset, you don’t argue with her about her feelings, you don’t tell her she is wrong to feel that way, you don’t come up with 1,000 reasons she should not be upset with you (at least not in a healthy marriage). If you respond to feelings with facts, it says to the other person that his or her feelings do not matter. In this case, you are dealing with your African American friends’ feelings and rather than trying to argue or negate their feelings, just listen.
Related to this point, do not bring up black-on-black crime or suggest that if the person had just complied they’d be alive.
First, when non-African Americans say these sort of things, the black community just thinks we’re not taking their concerns about racism seriously. In fact, African Americans do care about violence in their communities, and there have been marches and protests in Chicago and other cities for years. There are hundreds of programs dedicated to “keeping young men off the streets” from sports leagues, to afterschool programs, vacation Bible schools, mentoring programs and the list goes on—many of them are based in urban churches. African Americans believe that while whites say they are concerned about black-on-black crime, whites aren’t interested in the specific societal ills of poverty, lack of education, lack of employment, and lack of healthcare and housing.